Investigators find ‘black boxes’ of crashed Indian airliner

Updated 09 Aug 2020

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KARIPUR (India): Officials inspecting on Saturday the wreckage of the plane that crashed after skidding off the airport near here. — AFP
KARIPUR (India): Officials inspecting on Saturday the wreckage of the plane that crashed after skidding off the airport near here. — AFP

KOZHIKODE: Investigators have recovered the “black box” flight recorders from an Air India Express plane that crashed in southern India killing at least 18 people, the aviation minister said on Saturday.

The plane carrying 190 people crash-landed during bad weather on Friday night and tore into two, injuring scores of passengers.

The Boeing 737, on a special flight from Dubai to bring back Indians stranded by the coronavirus pandemic, overshot the runway at Kozhikode in Kerala state, plunged down an embankment and broke up.

“Fuel had leaked out so it was a miracle that the plane did not catch fire, the toll could have been much higher,” one senior emergency official at the scene said.

Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri visited the site on Saturday and announced that the flight data and cockpit voice recorders had been found, which would help the investigation into the cause of the crash.

Death toll climbs to 18

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau was conducting the probe, he said.

Kozhikode is considered a tricky airport as it has a table-top runway with a steep drop at one end.

Kerala has been hit by severe floods in recent days and heavy rain had been falling for several hours at Kozhikode as the jet landed.

Puri put the latest death toll at 18, while authorities said 22 people were in critical condition in hospital.

The fatalities included the two pilots as well as four children.

Passenger Renjith Panangad, 34, recalled the plane touching the ground and then everything went “blank”. “After the crash, the emergency door opened and I dragged myself out somehow,” he said from a hospital bed in Kozhikode.

“The front part of the plane was gone — it was completely gone. I don’t know how I made it but I’m grateful. I am still shaken.”

The impact was so brutal that the nose of the Boeing 737 finished about 20 metres from the back half of the jet.

“All that we could hear were screams all around. People were soaked in blood everywhere, some had fractures, some were unconscious,” said local resident Fazal Puthiyakath who was among the first at the scene.

Indian media quoted air traffic control officials and a flight tracker website as saying the Boeing 737 twice circled and started to land before it crashed at the third attempt.

The jet repeatedly jumped up and down in buffeting winds before the landing, survivors told Indian television.

Local taxi drivers and traders joined airport rescue staff to help free people from the wreckage in the dark.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2020